What is the Key to Effective Relationships?

What is the Key to Effective Relationships?

relationshipsThe Key to Effective Relationships is…

The gospel…in particular, the regular reminder (Heb. 3:13) of who we already are in Jesus Christ because of His finished work on our behalf.

These truths (called the indicative) are powerful weapons against our heart’s daily battle with idolatry (sin).

When we act on these truths by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:17), not only do they defeat sin, they, at the same time, also motivate us to repentance, greater obedience (imperative) and holy living.

For example, consider Romans 6:11, that because of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection, we “are to consider ourselves dead to sin”. By faith, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin’s power and pleasure in our lives. This is a truth of which we need to be reminded.

Scripture is replete with these Identity statements, yet they don’t register in our devotional reading of scripture and we fail to use them effectively in our relationships.

Applying the gospel in our relationships requires intentionality. Faithful application will lead to what we desire most, to be more like Christ!

For a great resource we have created a booklet, “Who are You?”

Elders and heads of household: Consider how you can be more intentional in equipping those under your charge to learn and apply these simple statement to life!

God’s Discipleship Pattern in Scripture

God’s Discipleship Pattern in Scripture

discipleshipThe latest research reveals that 75% of the children raised in evangelical churches are leaving the faith. It appears that the church is hemorrhaging its children out into the culture. Did Peter know something that we don’t when he preached, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…”(Acts 2:39)?

Having been a children’s ministry leader, and having met many children’s and youth ministry leaders over my 21 years of ministry, I can say that the efforts of the men and women who faithfully and lovingly serve on staff are not in question. In fact, the problems we see cannot be laid at the feet of these programs.

I submit that perhaps there are biblical principles that we’ve lost sight of. A renewed focus on these principles could make the difference in seeing Peter’s promise move from elusive dream to reality.

On one hand, Children’s and Youth ministry leaders increasingly are saying, “We’re doing all we can, but we can’t disciple children in one hour per week. We need parents to step up to the plate.” On the other hand, parents are maxed out, stressed out, and sometimes checked out of the daily process of making kingdom disciples of their covenant children.

The Word of God Provides The Solution In a Simple Pattern

What does God’s word tell us about how He expects us, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to establish covenant faithfulness in the home? I begin with a short story.

I remember one Christmas Eve getting quite frustrated with putting together a toy for my son. I finally, humiliatingly, after two hours of exasperation, found the directions and actually read them to learn that I had missed an important step. I imagine anyone reading this has had the same experience at some time or another. In some cases, the pieces are all there, but they aren’t put together in proper order. Either way, successful completion of the project remains elusive, until we read (or re-read) the directions.

What we need to do is “re-read” the directions for making disciples.
Very simply, it looks like this:

The Simple Pattern for Covenant Faithfulness in the Church and in the Home

1. There is a presupposed pattern in scripture, submitted to, pursued, and applied for God’s glory and our good, which rightly applied is not two but one central motive.

2. The aim of this pattern is heart-level obedience. (True godly desires verses bare-legalistic duty-oriented behavior).

3. Heart-level obedience is lived out through heart-level relationships with God and one another (“You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor”) which are the ultimate end to which we are all accountable.

4. This heart-level obedience and these relationships are not indiscriminate but maintained along covenantal lines (e.g. marriage and family).

5. The primary methodology of growth in regards to heart-level obedience and heart-level relationships is speaking the truth (the gospel) in love within these relationships, for which we are all accountable to know others and to be known by them.

6. This growth, otherwise referred to as sanctification or renewal in the likeness of Christ, involves putting off the old man with its lusts and putting on the new man (Christ in you). The love that comes from Christ to God and others, being rooted in the accomplishment of Christ and applied by faith, makes covenant faithfulness not only possible but expected, and not a burden but a joy.

7. God’s design is for each household to have a spiritual leader or ‘head of household’ (husband, father, single mother, or woman unequally yoked to a non-believer) who is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing this heart-level transformation for their households.

8. Overseers (elders) are men assigned to see to it that this transformation is being faithfully maintained in the broader Household of God (the Church). Practically speaking, overseers accomplish their jobs primarily by equipping and graciously holding responsible those (heads of households) whom God holds accountable.

How to Re-emphasize This Pattern

I will begin by stating what this pattern does not require. It does not require a jihad against church programs. Truth is, these programs can actually help facilitate the re-establishment of this pattern. But let’s be clear, absent this simple pattern being vigorously, intentionally, and faithfully maintained, these programs carry a load they were never intended to carry and as we have seen cannot fabricate covenant faithfulness.

What this pattern does require. Required is the vigorous, intentional, and faithful maintenance of this pattern because it represents what God has already clearly revealed in His word to guide us.

The place to start is with the establishment of this basic pattern of covenant faithfulness in the entire body of Christ. The big picture is beautifying the Church: the Bride of Christ. Do we really believe Ephesians 4:15-16? Are we building each other up by speaking the truth to one another in love? Faithful shepherding—and accountability—by the elders of the heads of households to fulfill their role is a clear biblical element that must be re-established if we are to accomplish covenant faithfulness and produce kingdom disciples.

Equipping spiritual heads of households to pursue covenant faithfulness in the home is not a ‘nice-to-have’, but a primary, foundational and absolutely mission- critical element in the church’s ministry.

This represents an exciting opportunity for elders, ministry leaders, head of households.
Scripture has given us a simple pattern that we must live in order to see Peter’s promise realized in our time…and beyond.

Four Small Changes to Men’s Ministry, Part 2

casualmanLast time, I mentioned the first two (of four) changes that if made to Men’s Ministry can make a huge difference. You can read the full article here.  As a review, they are:

First, change the name of the Men’s Ministry to Head of Household ministry.
“Men’s Ministry” connotes male issues, individuality and segregation, along with isolation. “Head of Household Ministry” keeps the focus on relationships and the head of household’s role in ministering through his relationships at home.

Second, teach heads of household (and then remind them over and over and over and over again) that the gospel makes them adequate to fulfill their role.
The gospel by virtue of what it is: the divinely powerful message of salvation (i.e. justification, sanctification, glorification), is alone sufficient in the hands o

f all men, including ordinary men, and made effectual by the Holy Spirit to do the work of transformation in the lives of people.

Third, stay focused on equipping men to apply the gospel in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Relationships that move wives and children toward Christ are an overflow of the transformation that God is accomplishing in the heart of the head of household (HOH). Paul says that the love of Christ compelled him (2 Cor. 5:14). In other words, his ministry was an overflow of Christ’s love working in him rather than his mustering up the will-power to do it himself.

Are HOHs experiencing transformation that overflows into service? Tragically, men can know their Bible, and even lead their households using biblical principles but still not know Jesus , love Jesus, or know the fundamentals of how to “put on Christ” everyday. Consider that many hearts are lost while the HOH is busy growing in greater knowledge of the Bible but failing in his relationships.

Equipping HOHs to apply the gospel involves teaching them skills such as how to discern the heart (i.e. motives, desires) behind their actions, how to identify and put off idolatrous desires that rule the heart, how to put on Christ, and how to repent of sin on a daily basis. Becoming more proficient in doing these things is maturity.

For example, at my church’s monthly Head of Household Meetings, we do not teach on other subjects such as finances, sex, work, eschatology, etc., etc. (That is not to say that those subjects are unimportant. However, they are usually abstracted from the gospel and easily become the sole focus overshadowing the more important, ongoing, daily heart work which requires constant attention. The secondary issues can be addressed more individually as need arises.) We have one topic: the gospel and it applied to heart and life to the glory of God. Sometimes this comes in the form of our pastor teaching. In other cases, it comes through testimony and mutual building up of brothers.

This ardent focus provides absolute clarity in the minds of us as elders and the HOHs about the nature and priority of our work.

Forth, the leaders of the church need to provide accountability.
The covenantal leaders of the local church (Elders) need to lovingly, graciously, and patiently hold the covenantal leaders of the home (HOHs) accountable to fulfill their calling of applying the gospel in their home. This involves much more than group meetings. It involves relationships between the elders and the HOHs where trust is built and intimate knowledge can be shared.

I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:5 where Peter, after talking about the shepherd role of elders adds, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders…” (NASB) Who were these “younger men”? Given the historical context it would be a stretch not to believe that they were predominately HOHs.

It is easier to teach a class than it is to have a deeper conversation.

Some might conclude that this is just too hard to do, or that it’ll never work for them. Perhaps there is a better, i.e. easier, more efficient way? (There isn’t).

This is a challenge. How do we meet it?

There are a number of practical ideas that I could offer here. However, I don’t think the problem really is knowing what to do. The following question cuts to the heart of the issue. Think of the costs of not doing this. For some, we will not have to think beyond people we know who are in trouble that could have perhaps been avoided if they were in accountability relationships.

This requires personal evaluation. What do our daily choices reveal about what (or who) is most important to us? Are we willing to meet the challenge and trust that God’s Holy Spirit is going to work through us—weak and feeble though our efforts be? We ourselves need the reminder of where the power is (point #2)! We also need the overflow (#3 above) that enables us to make the necessary sacrifices.

Church leaders who pay the price of equipping heads of household enjoy a tremendous return on investment in a healthy crop of men (1 Tim. 3:1-7) who rise to leadership in the church and who are able to help younger heads of household faithfully live their covenantal role in the home. Further, heads of household who rise to the level of maturity in this role are qualified for eldership.